Last night was a perfect example of a final prep visit...with a bonus. When I walked into their living room I noticed some special items on top of a shelf, obviously placed with care. I could see potted hyacinths, coloured eggs, wheat sprouts, and more. The shining couple explained that it was Persian New Year, and that the altar held seven items that each symbolizes some aspect of rebirth and rejuvenation. I was honoured to be a guest in their home on this special day. It seemed fitting that we were talking about welcoming a new life into their home at the new year. Then, the cat jumped up and tried to eat the sprouts (to the cat it looked just like catnip, I guess...) So, ancient ritual and custom met the quirky reality of the animal world. That's kind of like how labour works...
On this second prenatal visit, always done in a client's home, I see the couple in their comfort zone. I also look for labour inspiration by seeing what's on their bookcase or what holds a place of honour in their home. After tea and a chat, we get active, and do a "birth rehearsal" through the rooms. Stick a glass to the wall and listen to my voice as we roam the house: "Oh! You can totally polish your hardwood floors with lavender wax in the last month - on hands and knees! That might help to keep things loose and, you never know, help to keep the baby in a good position. Oh, and that toilet is positioned perfectly so you can sit backwards on it in labour..." etc. etc... No, I'm not manic, just excited to show people how their body can move them through their own space in labour. It's quite fun for the couple, to see their home from this new perspective.
So, fast forward to later that evening. Here's the scene - I was demonstrating the "shaking the apples" move to them. "You don't just shake the hips, you rub fast, just like you're trying to make fire. You can feel the heat from the friction..." The dad took over and did it perfectly (I say perfectly, because she made little sounds of happiness.) "I'll call it Fire Bum," he says, smiling, and writes it down in a notebook. We all laugh! "Fire Bum!" A new name for this move is born.
We move through the apartment, with her trying out different positions (in this visit, we discover that she can lean on the kitchen counter AND slide her bum against the cool fridge at the same time - what a bonus in labour!)
I demonstrate the different power balance that happens when someone's standing above her, moving to her level, or kneeling at her feet. "Which feels better?" I ask. "Wow...what a difference...when you kneel at my feet it feels so good." She feels the power that will flow into her in labour as her partner holds her, their heads close together.
"But, watch the thumb wiggle," I laugh. I demonstrate and she shudders uncomfortably. "That's no good," she laughs. There is so much meaning in that thumb wiggle... So many times in labours around the world, there's a sweet man who places his hand on the labouring woman's leg (good so far), holds it there, pauses, then...starts to wiggle that thumb (yikes!!!) There's so much good intent in that wiggle - "I love you, I want you to be okay, it will be all right..." - but it just comes across to the woman (just on this one day) as fingernails on a blackboard. It sends the pain signals shimmering, expanding through her body. Yowzaa! A still firm hand, instead, acts like an anchor, sending powerful messages of safety and warmth through her body.
After two hours, all of their questions about the upcoming birth are covered, as well as trust, movement, honouring the body, non-verbal communication, back circles, mesmerizing back strokes (complete with waterfall images), rhythm and ritual (plus logistics - "Yes, you can really call me at any time, day or night!") They are ready.
So, I leave them at the door, a loving couple at the beginning of the New Year, so close to the birth of "a family".
Jacquie Munro, founder of the "Slow Birth" movement, is an experienced doula and childbirth educator and is well-known for her individualized, intuitive approach to supporting families in the childbearing year and beyond. Since 1987, she has provided support at over one thousand births, at home and in hospital, and taught thousands of expectant parents. At home, Jacquie lives only a bike ride away from four generations of her family. You can usually find her at the park or beach, playing beside her twin grandsons who call her "Deecy".